Stana Katic is all-in on this one.
In Showcase’s new thriller Absentia, Katic has to balance a multitude of different stories and heavily emotional moments as FBI agent Emily Byrne, who mysteriously disappeared for six years — held captive and tortured by a masked man — and has now been found.
Returning to the life she once knew, Byrne discovers her husband Nick (Patrick Heusinger) has remarried, and her son Flynn is now nine years old and calling somebody else “mom.” Aside from having to deal with the intense feeling of no longer belonging in her own life, she has to contend with the physical and emotional trauma of recuperation. By the end of Episode 1, it’s clear that there’s more going on with Byrne than meets the eye.
Global News sat down with Katic in Toronto, and she told us never to be too sure about what’s happening on Absentia. She guarantees that any predictions will most likely be wrong.
Global News: I’ll say this much, viewers get thrown into the deep end pretty quick.
Stana Katic: Yep! There’s no room to breathe.
Absentia starts off really, really hard. Does the show keep that momentum as it goes on?
There’s moments of humour, but it’s really dark humour. It’s a thriller, right? So it’s edge-of-your-seat stuff from end-to-end. There’s always a cliffhanger at the end of each episode. The velocity is full throttle, and it doesn’t let up.
Aside from the physical torture, Emily’s first moments on the show are pretty intense. She has some tough reunions. What was it like to shoot those scenes?
I watched a lot of footage of people who’ve been in zones of conflict, and who’ve survived. I was seeing people reunited with their children, and holy mackerel. You can’t watch it without being massively affected and empathizing completely with those human beings. That’s important… how do we keep a story like this, as extreme as it is, grounded?
This sort of story is common throughout human history: a person who’s disappeared and finally comes back and is reunited with their loved ones. In this case, the thing that’s different is she didn’t realize she’s been gone for those six years. We don’t really know what happened to her. She’s come back and the entire world has gone on without her.
Emily is a woman who isn’t married anymore, who isn’t really a mom anymore… who isn’t really herself at all anymore. How complicated was that to play?
It was interesting to see how this character’s world has redefined her. She had no ownership of any of it, and who she thought she was has suddenly been stripped away from her. Where does she exist now? Everything has changed and everybody has gotten comfortable with the new status quo. The new status quo doesn’t involve her, so how does she reintegrate into that world? It’s quite the exploration.
How much of a mind-blow can we expect through this season?
Every single episode… as soon as you think you know what’s going on, as soon as you think you know who’s behind it, you’re wrong. [Laughs] The end, from what I’ve seen, surprises everyone. It’s enough of a finish where you’ll sit there and say, “OK. Cool. We’ve solved the question of this thriller for this season.” But man, they set up something really gnarly for the next… [Laughs]
How does Emily grow and change upon her return?
She starts off as a victim. She was in captivity for six years, she was definitively tortured for six years. She doesn’t remember what or why… or any of it, really. There’s a lot of secrets in this family; this family is a little more complicated than most. [Laughs] Those secrets start to be revealed throughout the series, and what we end up discovering is everyone was really comfortable with keeping those things tucked away. Now that she’s back, the secrets are unearthed.
As far as the character is concerned, she’s fierce, man. She’s a warrior. She had to fight for her survival, and her main goal was to reunite with her child. Now she has to fight for every element of her identity that’s being stripped away. At one point in this season, she’s a fugitive… I’m going to stop there, I’m saying too much!
In Castle, you were a co-lead. Here you’re the lynchpin character. How does that feel for you personally, and in terms of your career trajectory?
You know, for me, this show is an ensemble. While the story definitely hinges on my character, it means nothing without the entire group. This is my perspective on performing, period. We have an ensemble of wonderful actors, and it’s an international group. Everybody across the board came in and gave it their all, adding as much value to the story as possible. It took a lot of energy to get this sort of story out there.